Green Restaurant Initiative Background

The BRSI/AIR partnership is intended to provide the foundation for Asheville as a Green Dining Destination™ city, attracting tourism and promoting job creation and economic development in the region. The funding will enhance the restaurants’ efforts to increase use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency and promote energy conservation in support of achieving Green Certified Restaurant® status through the national Green Restaurant Association, a non-profit that has been setting the standard for green restaurants for over twenty years.

AIR members included in the grant and working towards GRA certification are: Bouchon, Burgermeister’s, The French Broad Chocolate Lounge, The Corner Kitchen, The Green Sage, Fiores downtown, Fiores south location, Frankie Bones, Homegrown, Laughing Seed Café, Jack of the Wood, Luella’s BBQ, Tupelo Honey Café downtown, Tupelo Honey Café south location, Neo Cantina, and Rosetta’s Kitchen. AIR member Posana Café in downtown Asheville, also participating in the grant, is one of only two existing GRA certified restaurants in North Carolina. Other AIR member restaurants pursuing GRA certification include Bouchon Street Food and The Green Sage south location.

A critical element to success of this project is the partnerships being formed between landlords and restaurant tenants to pursue these upgrades. As an initial example of such partnerships, the grant proposal included funds to assist the owners of the Adler Buildings—which both Posana Café and the Chocolate Lounge are located in—in upgrading the central natural gas boiler/water-source heat pump loop system serving all tenants (including seven restaurants) located in the building.

Specific measures implemented on participating restaurants include solar hot water installations, HVAC and refrigeration improvements, lighting upgrades, and development of a training course for energy conservation practices. These improvements are expected to save 2.2 billion BTUs of energy each year.

While efficiency retrofits are a highly effective means of reducing energy consumption, there are also many operational aspects of commercial kitchens that leave room for improvement. Forty-five percent of all energy used in a restaurant is consumed during food preparation, an area over which restaurant staff have significant control.[1] In fact, conscientious use of kitchen equipment has been estimated to reduce restaurant energy consumption by 7%.[2] Strategies include assigning responsibility for turning off cooking equipment, exhaust fans, and lights between shifts and at the end of the day, keeping lids on stock pots and braising pans, flushing broilers, and defrosting freezers. Even simple measures such as turning of sections of griddles and broilers during slow periods or eliminating long oven preheat times can save hundreds of dollars and millions of BTU.2 We are estimating a 3.5% reduction in energy use from a comprehensive education and staff training program. We intend for this program to develop the groundwork for broader energy education efforts of both BRSI and the AIR Green Team.

Combined, the infrastructural and education components of the grant are expected to save 3.4 billion BTUs of energy each year, a 12% reduction in total energy consumption for the restaurants that is equivalent to unplugging 110,000 televisions. In addition to the $258,000 grant, participating business owners are investing a combined $136,000 in energy efficiency improvements, resulting in a total investment of nearly $400,000.


The grant is provided through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, funneled down from the U.S. Department of Energy. Serving the job creation goals of this program, the Green Restaurant Initiative has created over 4,000 man-hours of work for local businesses. Additionally, BRSI partnered with the Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministries Green Jobs Program to leverage the job-creation potential of the Recovery Act by connecting recovery-act funded job training with recovery-act funded job creation. At least two of the recent graduates of ABCCM’s Solar Thermal Installation course was hired to work directly on the restaurant solar thermal installations.

The overarching goal of this project is to establish Asheville as the greenest dining destination in the country. To that end, BRSI hopes to see this project grow beyond the initial funding provided through the Green Business Fund. This effort will not only benefit local restaurants, but will also have a positive impact on our community and region, including local farms, local breweries, and other local businesses.

The project is being managed by Energy Campaign Manager Tim Ballard and supported by a variety of other BRSI volunteers and staff including John Stevens, Paul Dezendorf, Steve Cochran, Katie Cavert, Laura Piraino and the efforts of AIR Green Team members including Peter Pollay, Randy Talley and Kevin Westmoreland.

[1] Challenge to Top Management, Energy Efficiency: Self-Assessment Guide for Energy Savings Opportunities. October 2008. Waste Reduction Partners and the State Energy Office, NC Department of Administration.

[2] Energy Smart Tips for Restaurants. 2010. The Illinois Smart Energy Design Assistance Center, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. <>